In High School, shortly after Bill Clinton was elected President, I discovered Rush Limbaugh and talk radio. I have been a regular listener every since. In recent years I have become a little bit more picky about whom I listen to, filtering out those who seem to be mere spin-doctors and mouthpieces. Yet still sometimes my car is playing a CD, but just as often it is tuned to AM talk.
Currently, the big topic of talk radio discussion has been the current TSA screening procedures and scanning machines. Today I heard Rush Limbaugh loudly telling America that we must not stand for this personal intrusion into our lives, that we must fight back. He wasn’t telling people to take up arms, but that we needed to push back against our government in order to protect our freedom.
It is very true that we must be constantly vigilant to protect our personal freedoms, especially from a government that is always expanding and looking for more power and control. Governments will always look to expand and exert more hegemony over their people, and there is no better check against government domination than an ever-vigilant populace.
Further, screeners putting their hands down people’s pants are a gross intrusion that is unacceptable. Using terrorism as an excuse to confiscate personal liberty is an Orwellian nightmare that cannot be allowed in this country. Our founding fathers warned us of this. They even the Fourth Amendment into the bill of rights guaranteeing us that the government could not search us without probable cause. This amendment is used to as precedent for things like the “right” to abortion, but is being ignored in this case, where the government is literally doing the thing prohibited. Basically, Rush is right.
But as I was listening, I started to wonder how Rush’s conversation might have been different if President Bush were still in charge. There would have been people out protesting. The blogs would be full of people CAPS-ing vitriolic about how “the regime” is destroying American’s freedoms. Rush would be on air telling people that the government was doing all it could to prevent another attack on the homeland. He would be comparing this to all that America had to do during World War 2, and showing that it was really nothing in comparison. He would tell listeners that, ‘we are at war and there is an enemy putting bombs in their underpants, trying to kill innocent Americans.’
The point is, that life is always more complicated than the pundits and partisans and talking heads would lead us to believe. The TSA is staffed by people with advanced intelligence information that certainly includes ways that terrorists are actively trying to kill us. All it would take is for some bombs to go off, and people would be crying out for more security and asking why these things weren’t done in the first place.
While it seems that this is a gross intrusion on the government’s part, talk radio and others are constantly seeking to increase the volume and frenzy of political debate. They do this not just for ratings, although that is certainly a motive, but also because their goal is to motivate the people into action against the opposing side. Active people lead to desired change. It is dramatic and functional. It also makes for good radio.
Unfortunately, riled and rowdy masses seldom act prudently. Passionate people tend to pay attention to things that validate their world-view, and dismiss evidence to the contrary. But it is pretty obvious that this is seldom an accurate picture. In this case, while it seems clear to most people that this is a clear breach of the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Americans, it is also obvious that there are strong indicators of impending terrorist threats that the government is straining to prevent. While Americans must be vigilant in protecting freedom, we must enter into this conversation with the type of sobriety that people like Rush aren’t likely to give us. -Ryan